Page 895 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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government will increase taxes from those who, it is judged, will ultimately simply pay up. This is the lazy Treasurer’s approach to revenue raising. The Stanhope government has failed to increase the economic base of the ACT. The Stanhope government has failed to diversify the economic base of the ACT.

MR SPEAKER: The discussion is concluded.


Debate resumed.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (5.11): The failure of the Stanhope government’s Towards 2020 program to put people’s minds at rest and give confidence about how families would go forward and be settled has been a milestone of these last 15 months. The program has removed easy geographical access to public education for a large number of families. Those who can least afford it have borne much of the burden of these closures. Today, we have heard questions raised in this place about the demographics and some of the particularly harder hit areas, such as west Belconnen and northern Tuggeranong. I recall Mr Smyth interjecting in question time today, “Why close down an entire four schools?” Do you not realise the scar tissue that has caused within the community? That is my add-on to Mr Smyth’s interjection.

The government’s program has threatened greater inequity in education rather than improving equity, as the government claims. Schools such as Kambah high school were reliant upon the goodwill and efforts of individuals within that school to ensure a smooth transition for families. The feedback that we continually got was that the families around that particular high school community were very much in the dark for a very long time. I am not saying that they were not dealt with eventually, but they were in the dark for quite some time on what the transition arrangements were going to be. And they were very much reliant upon the good nature and the spirited cooperation of members of that school community, including teachers, in assisting in the transition process despite the government’s failure to quickly step in and make sure that the transition plans were absolutely clear cut.

I would like to talk about the blended schools concept, which is very much a part of the 2020 program. There is no doubt that there are some good schools being built. There is no doubt about that. Our argument is about the amount of disruption and the ground zero approach that this government took in approaching the implementation of this program. There is no doubt that there are some good schools being built. But there is a significant question to be asked about the blended schools approach: are we really looking after the interests of all of our students at various ages, particularly our younger students, in these P-10 model schools? Are there barriers in place to allow discrete teaching of the students of those classes and to allow them to be discretely looked after so that they do not mix? The minister would probably desire that that be the case, but on the ground there are questions—that that is not the case.

On 15 March at Calwell shops, I was approached by parents who told me about their year 6 female student at Chisholm. The parents were concerned that their 12-year-old was far too exposed to the behaviours and influences of much older kids. They were

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